The executive board of the American Sheep Association met in Indianapolis recently. Whether you have ever raised any livestock, particularly sheep, or not, or swore you never would, this story is worth reading!
"The biggest challenge facing our industry right now is meeting demand for both meat and wool," says Maragret Soulen Hinson current president of the American Sheep Association. She knows something about sheep. Her family has 8,000 ewes in the mountain country of Idaho, plus 800 beef cows.
"We're at all-time record high prices for lamb and wool, and there is still a worldwide shortage," she says. Demand has increased several years in a row, she notes. The demand is coming from changes in ethnic groups, with certain ethnic groups wanting more lamb, plus increases in demand for lamb in places like China and the Middle East.
"This isn't a blip on the screen- this is real," she says. "We simply need to raise more lamb to meet demand. We're not at all worried that we will overproduce- the demand is just very great right now."
She made her comments while the board visited Poe Hampshires sheep farm near Franklin. Dwarfed by her flock, it's still one of the biggest commercial flocks in Indiana. "That's what makes the sheep business interesting," the president says. "We've got all kinds of operations all over the country and they're all different."
One thing the board was viewing at the Poe farm was artificial insemination of ewes, a relatively new practice. Stanley Poe says he will have four days when the vet comes and performs the procedure this year. He built a special facility so they could perform the procedure, which involves surgery, in the proper environment.
The ASA has kicked off an initiative aimed at increasing the amount of lamb and wool produced in the U.S. by 2014, the president says. It is called 'Let's grow with two plus.' Basically, it's a program with three goals. First, ASA hopes producers will increase their flock by two ewes per operation, or two per 100 head.
Second, producers should take the steps necessary to work toward increasing average birthrate to two lambs per ewe per year.
Finally, ASA wants to encourage producers to increase the harvested lamb crop nationwide by 2%. That would move it from 108% to 110%. Currently, there are 5.63 million head of sheep in the U.S. More than 60% of U.S. wool is exported. Yet the U.S. military is the single larges consumer of American wool.